A loud and prolonged standing ovation greeted news of the establishment of the new Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research. But the reverberations of the announcement Thursday will extend far beyond the few hundred invited guests and media, to the medical research community around the world.
“The only thing that you can say is that this is truly transformational,” said Dr. Barry Rubin, Chair and Program Medical Director at the University Health Network’s (UHN) Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC).
The Centre will launch three integrated programs that draw on the combined strengths of UHN, U of T and SickKids in individualized genomic medicine, tissue engineering and advanced cardiac care. Along with that, it will also establish an innovation fund to drive discovery and development of the next-generation therapies for heart failure, and an education fund to attract the best and brightest students and postgraduates to ensure a deep pool of talent in Canada for cardiac care and research.
“The greatest element of this gift is the ability to bring the three centres together to leverage their different expertise and to make it much more than the sum of its individual parts,” Rubin said in an interview. “Even though the money is unprecedented, it’s also unprecedented to have the three centres work together and focus on a single disease – heart failure.”
About one million Canadians are living with heart failure and 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.
A primary goal of the Centre is to reduce hospitalization for heart failure by 50 per cent over the next decade.
The Centre, named for Ted Rogers, the Toronto-born broadcasting pioneer and philanthropist who died of heart failure in 2008, is being established with an unprecedented $130-million donation from the Rogers Foundation plus $139 million from the three institutions to raise the funding total to $269 million.
“We’ve been dealing with some challenges with shrinking funding from traditional sources and that can really cramp the style of the world-class research that we can do and that we have available,” said Dr. Heather Ross, a cardiologist at PMCC who is also the Director of the Ted Rogers Centre of Excellence in Heart Function. “A gift of this enormity really allows us to get on and get it done.”
While the Centre launches with 33 leading clinicians and researchers from UHN, U of T and SickKids, it’s expected to continue to attract the best in scientific talent from around the world to work on solving the critical challenges to heart health and create breakthrough in cardiac treatment, diagnosis and tools.
The Centre, which will be co-located in the three institutions but have its directorate at Toronto General Hospital, will recruit eight world-class research chairs and an Executive Director with an eye to mobilizing the best ideas and innovations to impact heart health in Canada and globally.
“There’s a huge opportunity to make an impact on a very sizeable number of Canadians,” Rubin said. “And, what we learn in the Centre we can translate to other places.
“In the future, we envision people won’t they need to go to Boston or Rochester for their treatment but people there will say they need to come to the Ted Rogers Heart Centre for treatment.”